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    It's Official: Madonna's a Mama

    After a week of increasingly implausible denials and "no comments" from Team Madonna, a Malawi high court judge has managed to do what the Material One would not: confirm that the singer and husband Guy Ritchie have adopted a one-year-old boy.

    Unsurprisingly, Madonna's mouthpieces have yet to comment on the adoption. Last week, her chief publicist, Liz Rosenberg, proclaimed, "Despite reports stating otherwise, [Madonna] has not adopted a baby boy."

    Guess we'll just have to settle for the word of the child's father and a Malawi village chief and the director of the orphanage and an African judge and a pastor and the secretary for the Ministry for Gender and Child Welfare.

    The Ritchies were granted custody of David Banda Thursday, after filing adoption papers at a local courthouse.

    "Madonna and the husband"--nice--"filed their papers for an interim order this morning at Lilongwe High Court, and the judge gave the ruling at 2 p.m. this afternoon," deputy registrar Thomson Ligowe told Reuters.

    Per Ligowe, the interim order means that while the new parental units are free to take the boy back to Britain with them, they will be required to attend a subsequent court hearing to determine whether the adoption will be allowed to take place. The judge's ultimate ruling will be based on a report on the family by Malawi social workers.

    "[Madonna] has been put on observer status to see how she will relate to the child, and people from social welfare will have to observe that," Ligowe explained. "The court will depend upon their observations to make a final decision."

    According to Malawian law, the hearing must take place within two years.

    Yohane Banda, the boy's father, said earlier this week that he was forced to send David to an orphanage after the boy's mother died from fever and other complications just days after childbirth. The elder Banda was present at the court this morning to see his son off and meet with the new parents for the first time.

    "They are a lovely couple," the 32-year-old man told reporters. "She asked me many questions. She and her husband seem happy with David. I am happy for him. Madonna promised me that as the child grows she will bring him back to visit."

    Reports last week suggested the adoption process was given special priority--the average time to clear the red tape in the African country is 18 months--and that laws dictating that Malawi children not be adopted by foreigners were bent for the superstar couple. But Kingston Kilimbe, the director of the country's child welfare services, insisted that the Ritchies' adoption was by the book.

    "They have followed the normal processes," he told reporters. "This has been going on for some time. Now is the completion point."

    The chief of Lipunga, the Malawi village where the boy is said to hail from, seconded the remarks that the adoption process was set in motion long before the media caught wind of it.

    Henderson Geza Dyedyereke told Reuters that he learned of Madonna's plans to adopt back in August, from the director of the Home of Hope Orphan Care Center, the Reverend Thompson Chipeta.

    "Reverend Chipeta came yesterday to inform me about the child David Banda," Dyedyereke told the wire service. "The father told me that the child was going to America."

    The father confirmed as much yesterday, saying that his son had been adopted by a "famous U.S. musician," though being careful not to name Madonna or Ritchie.

    "I am very happy," the elder Banda said. "As you can see, there is poverty in my village. I know he will be very happy in America."

    While the adoption was apparently not made official until today, Britain's Sun reported that Madonna and Ritchie picked up David from the Home of Hope Orphan Care Center on Monday night. They also claim that she had visited the orphanage twice before then since her arrival in Malawi last Wednesday.

    The director of the center has refused to comment publicly on the adoption, though his son, Thompson Chipeta Jr., said that the "Hung Up" singer and her hubby chose David after the threesome bonded during an hourlong play session on one of her visits.

    The boy marks the third child in the couple's burgeoning brood, joining son Rocco, 5, and daughter Lourdes, 9, whom Madonna had with choreographer Carlos Leon.

    The family has been on an orphanage-hopping tour of the African nation since last Wednesday, when Madonna and Co. touched down to tend to the singer's Raising Malawi project, designed to clothe, feed and shelter more than 4,000 AIDS orphans.

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